Hoyle House is a
Gaston County landmark
Even though this year’s annual Hoyle House reunion and tour was canceled due to COVID19 concerns, the home and its surrounding grounds are still an interesting place to visit in better times.
The Hoyle Historic Homestead is Gaston County’s oldest home. It dates back to circa late 1700’s and is located at 1214 Dallas-Stanley Highway about halfway between the two towns.
A non-profit educational organization, The Hoyle Historic Homestead, Inc. is in charge of the place and seeks to restore and protect what was originally the home of Peter Hoyle, sometimes spelled Heil, Heyl or Hoyl in old documents.
Hoyle was part of the 18th Century settling of the North Carolina Piedmont by German and Scot-Irish immigrants traveling the Great Philadelphia Wagon Road south through the Shenandoah Valley then into the Carolinas.
The home is important not only for its antiquity, but also for its construction. The house and outbuildings are on the site where Hoyle received a land grant in 1754. The main house was built during the late 1700’s. It features rare corner post construction and is the only known remaining structure in North Carolina with this type of construction. This was also the site of Hoylesville, the first Federal Post Office in present day Gaston County.
The site was purchased by Hoyle Historic Homestead Inc., in 1991 to preserve and restore this very important part of regional history. In 1993 it was placed on the National Historical Register.
Hoyle, a miller from Adenbach, Germany, his wife, Catharine, and their children arrived in America on September 11, 1738 on the Robert and Alice, originally settling in northeast Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. The family then lived for some time in Frederick, Maryland, but by 1753 had moved to what is now Gaston County, North Carolina, then part of Anson County.
The exact date of construction of the house is not known, but various sources date it anywhere from 1750 to 1758. After Peter’s and his eldest son Jacob’s deaths, which occurred within a year of each other, the land was inherited by Jacob’s minor son Martin, who then transferred his interest to his uncle John. In 1794 the property went to Peter Hoyle’s other grandson, Andrew, who became a farmer and entrepreneur. “Rich Andrew”, as he was known, may have acquired the property with the house already standing and then improved the dwelling, or he may have built the house and later upgraded it with new finishes in the early years of the 19th century.
The Hoyle House stands on a hill overlooking the South Fork of the Catawba River. The house faces south toward a now overgrown dirt road; the Dallas-Stanley Highway on the north side now provides access to the property.
The earliest section has a foundation of small stones, still partly visible. The house’s German-American hallmarks include its heavy timber frame construction with vertical braces at the corners with tightly fitted horizontal log infillings. The apparently original and complete roof structure is now covered with early 20th century tin, and much of the unusual original beaded siding, applied circa 1810 with cut nails, survives covered by weatherboard. Weathering beneath the beaded siding reveals the exterior was originally unsheathed. Some of the early windows remain, set in molded surrounds with molded sills that appear to date to 1810. The windows originally were small (about two-and-a-half feet square) and possibly filled only with shutters in the earliest period.
The first floor of the main block is a four-room plan of two larger rooms on the east side, with corner fireplaces sharing a single chimney, and two smaller west rooms. Each pair of rooms is of equal width, but the front rooms are slightly deeper. A later, second north-south partition, no longer in place, once created a center-hall plan. Today all rooms connect with adjacent rooms. The original staircase, in the southeast corner of the larger front room, enclosed with one set of winders and at least one stop outside the enclosure, was removed in the late 1960s.
The first floor interior is carefully finished. Much of the modern sheetrock and painting have been removed to reveal early board ceilings and walnut paneled partitions and paneling on the outer walls. While some or all of the interior sheathing appears to date after 1810, all of the trim and some of the ceiling probably date to the first remodeling.
The three room plan of the second floor consists of a large east room that comprises about two thirds of the space along with two small west rooms. The north-south paneled partition is similar to the partition of the first floor. This basic three room plan probably is original, although the partition has been moved at least twice. Notches on the baseboard and patching of the wall plasters and chair rail indicate the wall was moved east, into the larger space, by about three feet. All outer walls were exposed logs until they were plastered, probably early in the 19th century. A door in the northeast corner of the large east room leads to an enclosed attic staircase; in the stairwell the structural system is clearly evident because the corner post, down braces and log filling have never been sheathed.
The two remaining outbuildings date from the early- to mid-19th century. Near the northeast corner of the main house, the well house is a one-story, rectangular common bond brick building with ventilation holes on the ends. A gabled tin roof extends beyond the west end and acts as a porch sheltering the well. The well house stands at the southeast corner, and east of the well house stands a weatherboarded smokehouse with a gabled roof sheathed in sheet metal.
The Hoyle House is an important and, in some respects, apparently unique landmark of traditional German-American architecture in North Carolina. The unusually large, for its time, and substantial dwelling exemplifies a construction method— heavy timber frame with log infill— seen elsewhere in the mid-Atlantic Germanic settlement areas but not previously identified in North Carolina.